There is a widely held belief that while the red wines of the Northern Rhône will age almost indefinitely the reds of the South don't make old bones. This is a bit of a generalisation and, of course, is rather vintage dependent but it is true that by and large the Syrahs of the Northern Rhône do live longer than their Grenache-based counterparts in the Côtes du Rhône Méridionale.
Last Saturday evening 'Team Yapp' and significant others gathered for a barbecue to celebrate our 40th anniversary in the trade and it was with some trepidation that I broached our last remaining case of Châteauneuf du Pape from Domaine Chânte Cigale in the 1969 vintage. 1969 was a pretty decent year for Châteauneuf du Pape but given that the great Rhône guru John Livingstone-Learmonth [www.drinkrhone.com] wrote in his 1992 edition of 'Wines of the Rhône' - "These wines need drinking forthwith."
I wasn't holding out too much hope for this wine. On the positive side provenance counts for a lot and this wine hadn't moved from our cellars since it was first shipped sometime in the early 1970s. Despite a little bit of ullage the pale green, lead capsuled bottles, still in their original purple tissue paper had respectable levels which augured well. Upon opening things didn't look so great as the wine was a pale rusty colour and had thrown a lot of fine sediment. A first tasting (pre-decanting) confirmed my worst fears - this appeared to be a wine that was well past its prime - both closed on the nose and thin on the palate. Happily my fears were ill-founded, after careful decanting and an hour's resting time this damp squib had transformed into a fire-cracker. Over 20 people tasted this blind and almost everyone assumed it was a much younger wine and it met with unanimous approval. The bouquet had developed attractive stewed-berry and sous bois aromas and the palate had a core of sweet cassis fruit and a fine elegant finish.
40 years is a lot to ask of a Châteauneuf' even in a superior vintage but if they are carefully cellared they can last for decades. I must try and keep some of the excellent 2007s on one side for my 80th birthday celebrations in 2047.